Art from Waste: Learn more about recycling artist Michelle Reader

Michelle has a BA in Fine Art and an MA in Scenography. She relocated from London to Nottinghamshire in 2017 and is now based at the Harley Foundation Workshops in Welbeck just to the north of Sherwood Forest. She makes unique figurative recycled sculptures from household and industrial waste combined with found objects sourced from charity shops and reclamation yards.  Her sculptures sometimes have mechanical elements, using the working parts of old toys, clocks or other objects.  She often runs workshops for festivals, galleries and schools creating sculptures and installations from scrap materials. She also creates props, sculptures and models for theatre, product launches, events and photo shoots.

I love the unpredictability of found materials and enjoy the inventiveness necessary to transform them into a sculpture.  I like to make work that is interactive and inviting, tactile and colourful.  The joy of working with found materials is the unexpected uses that can be found for them. For instance, an umbrella and a bucket combining to form the trumpet of a daffodil, two old oil cans forming the basis of a wind turbine, or the internal workings of an alarm clock becoming a mechanism for a propeller. 

The choice of materials can also be a key part of the story of a piece.  In 2008 I created a portrait of a family made from a month's worth of their own household waste.  The materials not only highlight a need to address the amount of waste each of us produces, but also tells the story of each individual through the things they discard – a child’s drawings, a shopping list, a birthday card.   I try wherever possible to use materials that are reclaimed, things with a history that have been discarded and might otherwise end up in landfill. My sculptures draw attention to environmental issues in an aesthetic, humorous and non-confrontational way.

A short film by Marco de Luca and Cristian Mantio



Michelle Reader, Redshank recycled sculpture detail
Michelle Reader hands close-up
Michelle Reader, recycling artist